Before I started the blog, I read Jessica Brockmole’s Letters from Skye which I absolutely loved. I thought it was so clever as the entire romantic love story was told through letters. I saw her at the Edinburgh Book Festival that year and really enjoyed listening to her talk about the book. So I was really pleased to be offered the opportunity to read her latest novel, Woman Enters Left.
Woman Enters Left tells the connected stories of Ethel and Florrie in the 1920s and Ethel’s daughter in the 1950s. Ethel and Florrie are making a long cross-continent road trip to Nevada and ultimately Hollywood. They had been childhood friends, though that friendship had drifted when Ethel married. Florrie is heading to Hollywood to start a film career while Ethel is hoping to meet up with her husband in Nevada and convince him not to divorce her. Thirty years or so later, Ethel’s daughter Anna Louise, also an actress, is confused to find she has inherited now famous film star Florrie’s estate. She was unaware of any connection between herself and the actress and is even more confused when she finds photos of her mother with Florrie. Her own marriage is in difficulty, her career at a bit of a crossroads and her relationship with her father rather distant. She too makes a cross-country road trip unknowingly following a similar route in reverse.
Diary entries, film scripts, letters and straightforward narrative tell the story of these women and their journeys. I found it a really enjoyable read as I became fascinated by the lives of all the women. At first I found the diary entries from the earlier story a little confusing, I wasn’t sure which woman was writing which part. This might have been because I was reading a Kindle version, it may have been clearer in a print edition. However, I soon got into the rhythm and actually enjoyed this part most. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the story of Louise in the 1950s section as this was also compelling, particularly when it explored the relationship between her and her injured war veteran husband.
Appropriately, given the title and the acting careers of Florrie and Louise, there was a very glamorous cinematic feel to the book. This was enhanced of course by the inclusion of sections of film script. It is a very visual book with the clothes and setting particularly well depicted. I could easily imagine the opening chapter as the sweeping opening scene from a Hollywood film, one full of glamour. The long road trips undertaken by the women also gave a great sense of setting with descriptions of the open road ahead, the small towns, the cars, the difficulties the women faced all adding to the atmospheric scenes. Themes explored included love and forbidden love, with that forbidden love more openly shown in the film scripts.
I particularly enjoyed the closing chapters summing up the story through letters which I found reminiscent of Letters to Skye. Jessica Brockmole is skilled at writing in such a way that her readers can glean so much from these letters and work out what has happened yet been left unsaid. I really cared about the characters and felt for their sadnesses and worries, their hopes and dream. Woman Enters Left is an elegantly written novel which I very much enjoyed.
My thanks to Amy at HF Virtual Blog Tours for my copy of the book. Woman Enters Left is available now in paperback and as an e-book. You can order a copy online at any of the links below:
Amazon US | Amazon UK ¦Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | iTunes | IndieBound | Kobo
From the back of the book
1952. B-list movie star Louise Wilde’s acting career has stalled and her marriage is on shaky ground when she learns she’s inherited the entire estate of screenwriter Florence Daniels, a woman she has never met. Her confusion grows when she discovers a cache of old photographs of Ms Daniels with her late mother.
1926. Two friends, Ethel Wild and Florrie Daniels, embark on a cross-country adventure in Florrie’s Model T. Florrie is moving to Hollywood while Ethel is trying to catch up with her husband in Nevada before he’s able to start divorce proceedings.
Told through diary entries, letters and film scripts, these three women’s parallel stories and road trips see them journeying towards answers and destinations they never expected.
About the Author
Jessica Brockmole is the author of At the Edge of Summer, the internationally bestselling Letters from Skye, which was named one of the best books of 2013 by Publishers Weekly, and Something Worth Landing For, a novella featured in Fall of Poppies: Stories of Love and the Great War. She lives in northern Indiana with her husband, two children, and far too many books.